You can’t sleep on a NYC subway anymore, but you can pee on the street?
Low-level offenses such as public urination, drinking alcohol in public and disorderly conduct will be virtually decriminalized, and summonses for the offenses wiped clean, under a plan by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
“We know that the system has really been rigged against communities of color in particular,” she told The New York Times. “So the question has always been, what can we do to minimize unnecessary interaction with the criminal justice system?”
Meanwhile, Commissioner Bill Bratton says cops will awaken subway riders who fall asleep, allegedly to protect them from crime. “I know people have gotten out of work and are tired,” Bratton has said, “but we are going to start waking people up.”
What’s next? I sometimes enjoy a late night stroll. Are the cops going to stop me because of the increased chance I might get mugged? Isn’t that my business?
I’m glad former Mayor Michael Bloomberg imposed laws against smoking in restaurants, but this nanny state business is getting out of hand. Is there anyone who hasn’t occasionally nodded off on public transportation?
Some suggest shake-and- wake may be a scheme for driving the homeless out of the subways. While most New Yorkers are sympathetic to the homeless, those who pass out across three seats, often reeking of body odor, are another story. We’ll see whether that’s the plan, or if cops start waking up groggy New Yorkers coming home from work. Do we really want to become, literally, the city that never sleeps?
Public urination became a topic of discussion last summer, when more homeless were seen on the streets. But now that Mark-Viverito has broadened the issue to include other low-level crimes, is she right to say that the courts have better things to do than take on public nuisances? Or is the broken windows theory — stopping smaller crimes prevents bigger ones — a more accurate assessment?
Do you like her plan? Or do you fear having to sleep on the subway with one eye open because the guy in front of you looks like he really needs a bathroom?
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.